Friday, August 16, 2013

Stina talks about the 48 Hour Film Project

This is a blog that Stina wrote for the people who run the Los Angeles 48HFP:

Our group, the Collaborative Group Ensemble Troupe Collective, has been meeting for more than a year, experimenting with collaborative storytelling and film-making. 

Leading up to the 48HFP, we started practicing brainstorming techniques we might use the night of. We really liked something called Story Symphony, where people take turns making up a story. One person conducts the story by pointing at people. If you're being pointed at, you're telling the story, but as soon as the conductor points elsewhere, you stop, even if it's mid-word. The next person has to pick up exactly where the previous person left off. 

We played around with Story Symphony at our weekly meetings, trying to set ourselves up as if it really were the night of the 48HFP by picking a genre, a character, a line and a prop.

So the evening of the 48HFP rolls around and we are eagerly awaiting a text from our producer with the details so we can jump into Story Symphony. We get the info and we go. And everyone realizes that we're kind of sick of Story Symphony. We'd used up the novelty of it in our practice sessions. 

Ultimately our story idea came about through good old-fashioned brainstorming. 

"Ooh, how about someone goes to their car and in its place, there's a present?" 

"Yeah, and then . . ."

A could happen, or B could happen, or what if we go all crazy and jump to Z? 

We brainstorm up until about 9pm, then I go off and write the first draft. I come back to the group a couple hours later and we don't like the ending, so we brainstorm again and come up with a new ending. Then we all go home so the rest of the group (which comprised of our director and actors) can squeeze in some sleep while I finish writing.

I write up until about 3:30am, then call it good, email it out, and crash. About an hour and a half later I get a phone call from our director, who's now working on the shot list with our DP and 1st AD. They think it's too short. Over the phone, we brainstorm some ways to increase the tension (we drew Crime/Gangster) and lengthen it. I get back to work and send out the final draft around 5:45am 

48HFP is really all about collaboration, so it felt like the perfect opportunity for our group to put our skills to the test. Ultimately it didn't matter if we used Story Symphony the night of, because the technique had already benefited us as a group. We were ready to jump in with ideas and to build off one another's ideas. I wrote the story, but we built it together.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Productivity and happiness

I don't want to BS you. As you read in my last post, I was feeling a little disheartened, and if I were writing this post last week, you'd get a similar tone. But now everything seems delightful.

Even over the weekend, I waffled on the value of skill in acting. But that's the thing about art. There's not a right way every time.

So on with the series called: How do you make it?: My Path

Alright, what's been going on?

Last weekend I directed my first fully-crewed film. The 48 Hour Film Project challenges teams to make a short movie from script and pre to screen in 48 hours. Our team met that challenge. And we used several collaborative exercises to make sure the whole collective's voice appeared in it. Then Stina wrote the final script, and BAM! We have a murder mystery.

People are asking me if I got bit by the directing bug. No. I did not. I enjoyed it, yes. I felt good about it. I was happy with it. But my passion lies in acting. I would certainly direct again, but there is no dearth of directors in L.A. and I don't want it as badly as they do. The acting. That I want badly.

So on to that. Mostly.

The quick stuff out of the way. My agents got me an audition for a feature film. This is the first time they've done that, but not the last I'm sure. I am thrilled. I had the audition last week and got a callback for tomorrow. Boo ya. Also had a delightful commercial audition that I just got home from. We were the third to last group before lunch, and the session runner acknowledged his own hunger-crankiness, but my group followed directions well and got in and out with positive energy, and it just felt nice to be making someone's day easier. And he was grateful and nice. PLEASANT EXPERIENCES WOOHOO!

That brings me to 2 weeks ago. I had two commercial auditions in a day. I arrived at the first one as I always do: early, so I could prepare strong choices (they hadn't given sides ahead of time). I enjoyed my waiting room time, as the CD's kid eagerly greeted each actor and told them where to go. I was feeling fully ready. Gave myself some time to breathe. When I was up, I was the first after the explanation. Everybody left the room. I got comfy in my position, and ... just felt blah. Hurried. Unable to breathe. Not literally, but... kind of literally. ("inspiration, respiration, perspiration"). The role was perfect for me. It was mine if only I acted "right" and that's where I got in my head. I thought, "There's a right way. I gotta find it and do it. And oh no! It's not what I thought it was." I censored myself, and tried to make new choices without breathing them through, and wound up kind of muddled, I thought.
Ultimately, I pushed through, of course. Tried to give the session runner what he was asking for, but I was lost. It wasn't awful by any means. But it was just... blah. I left with fine energy, I thought, but who knows. There was some self-doubt worming its way through me. Also, I was hungry. Good lord, food is important. Of course, if I had booked it, this would be a different story, wouldn't it?
But two in a day? I have a second chance. As I was sitting in the waiting room for the second one (for which I felt slightly more prepared because we had gotten sides ahead of time), I wondered what, within my control, I could have done differently for the first one. Take that time to breath if I feel rushed, of course. But I always remind myself of that, and it still flew out the window. Had a snack ready, is another one. I had eaten a decent breakfast, but I know waiting room times can be long, and that, coupled with travel and ... whatever I do between breakfast and audition, plus the energy burning nature of my warm-ups means... a sense of empty belly right when I need to feel satisfied by a candy bar or whatever. Or just feel anything other than that most primal of needs: the food-need. So, a snack.
What else? I know, logically, how important confidence is. I hear it. I observe it. I think I usually exude it. (Just as a note: confidence and cockiness are similar, but one (of several) key differences is that the confident person is prepared, and the cocky one isn't). But sometimes finding that confidence when... whatever... has awakened your internal censor is hard. So what could I do? And I happened upon something that worked for me. I thought to myself: Imagine your phone just buzzed with a new text. It says "NBC Comedy Pilot - YOU BOOKED IT! -Jeff"
Boom. Easy. This particular moment was key. I felt really good about that NBC audition. Booking it would change everything about where my career is. It gave me an exciting secret for that moment. And even if it had been true, I would do exactly what I was doing, except instead of being the only thing I booked that week, it would be another.
And I felt good walking away from that audition. I didn't book it either, but, you know, who knows why any given part goes to one person or another. Maybe - anything. Lots of stuff out of my control. But the one thing mostly under my control - my performance? I have no regrets.

But yeah. That's not even where we're coming to:

There's more. Three weeks ago, Daily Fiber Films contacted me and said (paraphrased), "We like your pitch, can you write a full script for your sketch? We'll shoot it in August." Whoop! Now, I'm not trying to be a writer. Again, that's not where my passion lies. I am best at acting, most experienced at acting, and most driven to act, but I also like working creatively in all fields. I liked directing last weekend, too, for example. I have been writing a lot since moving to LA, making my own stuff. And sure, I've contributed here and there to other people's projects. And shot my own projects ( But here was a new opportunity. Not me making my own stuff. Someone else making my stuff. And putting me in it. And we shot it yesterday. And I could not be happier. I felt strong, as an actor, AND as a writer. And I had so much fun... and Yes. OMG. just. I love Daily Fiber. And Mark And Raymond. And everybody who was in it.

And other people talked to me about playing a role in their webseries.

AND Gentle Werewolf is getting read:

So... the rest of today will be spent studying the feature script, and tomorrow I'm reading at We Make Movies in Brian Gaskill's piece (something dramatic to balance all the comedy I've been doing recently) after my callback and, all in all, everything feels pretty darn good.

Because work begets work and feeling productive begets happiness.

And the push for money:

We're making Top Decking, Season 2! We're 2/3 through our campaign and have raised 1/3 of the money necessary, so we need a big push. If you read this blog, consider making a donation. Any size, really. The $5 level is clearly the most affordable, but I'd like to ask you to consider the $25 level, since at that level, you get a DVD of the first season, and don't you want that?